Many years ago Mike Garner took a shine to the blues when he was still living in the south of England. As a child he was fascinated by the boogie woogie piano he could hear on the radio. Later on he took up acoustic, pre-war blues during the mainstream of the British blues boom. In London he saw a lot of his favourites live. All this made an impression on him and then he started playing covers from Delta and Chicago blues classics. In the meantime, he grew into a multi-skilled instrumentalist, an excellent slide guitarist, as you can hear on an his fifth album. Jimi Hendrix’s “Two Trains Running” shows this in full measure.
Apart from four numbers, all the songs are written by himself. You can hear a Pacific influence, due to his many years living in the South Pacific. His 5th CD, Cad’s Alley, was released in January 2007. Slide guitar, ukulele, washboard, mandolin, bass and harmonica create together create a southern islands atmosphere. It is all Mike Garner, now a New Zealand citizen.
He arrived in 1988 and is now settled in NZ. From there he has toured solo, or with his ‘The Blues Healers’ and ‘Stepping Out’ bands, in NZ, Australia and Europe. In 1993 he released his first solo album. He lives in Rotorua, where the landscape of volcanoes and mountain lakes inspires him. But above all he stays a blues man. He will never let go the blues influence of his youth. You can hear that, for example, in his song ‘Billy The Kid’, which he has modernised, with a djembe, and made it his own. ‘Pay Your Dues’ with trumpet and trombone, awakens a New Orleans spirit
The jewel in the crown is probably ‘Louisiana Hurricane, 3rd prize winner in the International Song Competition in Nashville. In just one song, he sums up the history of the poor people and how these people are messed around by police, priests and a lack of compassion by the government. His harmonica playing and the percussion give a tone of rebellion to it. The same can be said of ‘Tsunami’ where a sense of mourning hangs over the song. Other songs, “My Baby” and Billy Myles’ “Have You Ever Loved A Woman”, with mandolin wafting exotic pacific breezes, gives more opportunity to Warren Houston on drums, djembe and washboard. On one song, his son Paul, who has stayed in England, plays with him. I particularly appreciate his ‘Leaving Blues’ on which guest pianist Jan Preston accompanies the harmonica playing ’travelling man’ who has already booked his flight.
Mike proves he has no lack of originality. This singer/guitarist uses many influences, but from an astute view of his conscience. The indictment of “What Were You Doing” couldn’t have been sharper.
Cad’s Alley won’t bore you, it’s very deep and you’ll need to listen many times to understand it. It’s complex, fascinating with all the influences interacting; but it’s still authentic, spiritual with a volcanic bloodstream, expressed through the songs and rhythms of his Beltona guitars.
Mike Garner is well versed in acoustic blues, ragtime, jug band, Americana and original songs on acoustic resonator guitars.
He is also an experienced bandleader and vocalist, fronting a 5-piece electric blues band. He is influenced heavily by the old‐time Mississippi Delta sound, Chicago....more